In a thorough review titled ‘Champing at the Bit for Improvements: Equine Welfare in Equestrian Sports in the United Kingdom‘, independent researchers Tim Holmes and Ashleigh Brown, explore the effect of equestrian sports on the lifelong welfare of horses, highlight scenarios in which welfare can be impaired, discuss the efforts being made to improve it, and make recommendations for implementing a process of meaningful, long-term change. 

Equestrian sports, including racing (e.g., flat, steeple-chasing, harness or donkey derby); show-jumping; cross-country; dressage; polo; polocrosse; endurance; carriage driving; vaulting and hunting; are hugely popular in the UK, and they involve a significant number of people, both as participants and spectators, and tens of thousands of equids.

The paper, discusses animal welfare as a complex and disputed issue, clarifying what the term means and how it can be measured.

It reviews many aspects of welfare risk to equids used for sport, addressing issues encountered throughout their lives, including housing, feeding, veterinary intervention, shoeing, handling, training, breeding and equipment. This is followed by a unique exploration of the institutions and social processes influencing equine welfare.

The institutional components comprise the rules of competition, the equids, attributes of the stakeholders and the space where participants strive to achieve a common purpose.

The authors untangle the most significant elements that create barriers or provide opportunities for equine welfare improvement. They expose the challenges faced by a broad range of stakeholders with differing ethics, attitudes and values. Evidently, there are many welfare risks to which equids used in sports continue to be exposed.

They acknowledge that significant improvements have occurred in recent times, while noting there are still barriers to reducing the risks to an acceptable level.

The article concludes with recommendations regarding a process for change, involvement of stakeholders and management of knowledge to improve equine welfare that involves identifying and prioritising the risk factors and ultimately leading to interventions, further research and/or education.

This article is open access, you can read and download it here.

Holmes, T.Q.; Brown, A.F. Champing at the Bit for Improvements: A Review of Equine Welfare in Equestrian Sports in the United Kingdom. Animals 2022, 12, 1186.